Here is another excerpt from my book, Undoctored: Why Health Care Has Failed You and How You Can Become Smarter Than Your Doctor that describes how I stumbled on the unique concepts presented in the book.
Let me tell you how I got the spark of this idea of empowering the individual that, over time, crystallized, gained scientific momentum, and made me tingle at its exhilarating potential. It did not begin as a flash of Archimedes-like insight that made me jump out of the tub, shout “Eureka,” and run naked through the neighborhood. Nor did I set out to usurp the perverse economics of healthcare. As often happens, it was a sequence of misjudgements and blunders, with occasional flashes of enlightenment, that led me down this improbable path.
It started over 20 years ago. I was practicing as a successful interventional cardiologist, ballooning coronary artery blockages, inserting drilling devices and stents, aborting heart attacks. It was a time that invited creativity and daring, as methods and tools were evolving. It seemed that every week some new and exciting device was released, allowing us to improve procedural results. After performing 5000 procedures I, along with many of my colleagues, came to believe that “heart health” was delivered through the cardiac catheterization laboratory, the “cath lab,” using an array of devices and drugs. Heart health was not obtained through an office, certainly not your home. Diet? Let the dietitian take care of that!
Deep in this world, performing as many as ten procedures per day, I received a call informing me that my mother had died of sudden cardiac death. She had undergone her own balloon angioplasty procedure just a few months earlier.
The loss of my mother without a chance to say goodbye was shattering. But it shook me further that she died of the disease I thought I knew something about. It made me question the view that the cath lab was a place to obtain heart health. Surely, there were better ways to identify, track, and control the disease that my colleagues and I so enthusiastically ballooned, drilled, and stented, but resulted in my mother’s death?
I began to search for better ways to identify early coronary disease, preferably years before trouble erupted as heart attack or sudden cardiac death. Once I found a way to measure and track coronary atherosclerosis (the abnormal tissue, or “plaque,” of coronary disease responsible for heart attacks), it led to questions over whether we could stop, even reverse, its growth. (More on this later.)
Better questions eventually led to better answers. But the answers proved strikingly different than the usual “cut your cholesterol and saturated fat, eat more whole grains, and take a statin drug” that the rest of the world followed for heart health. It led to awareness of issues such as lipoproteins (fat-carrying particles in the blood) and how they are disrupted by grains and sugars, the role of inflammation, restoration of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, recognizing the huge impact of thyroid status on heart health, managing the microorganisms inhabiting the bowel, and other issues. In an effort to increase awareness of benefits beyond such things as statin drugs (which barely worked, reflected in data I helped generate), I launched a website for heart health. The aim was simple: cultivate discussions for people with coronary disease to learn about new ideas—period. I didn’t say “Dump your doctor,” or “Manage heart disease yourself.” I simply set out to provide better information, together with supportive discussions. Despite the complexity of some of the conversations, thousands of people embraced the approach.
Lo and behold, in addition to the two thousand patients in my office having no heart attacks or hospital procedures over the years, likewise nobody in the online program (mostly high-risk people who’d undergone prior heart procedures or suffered heart attacks) was coming back needing stents or bypasses, or having heart attacks—heart disease in people following a handful of simple strategies came to a halt. A growing number of people reversed the quantity of coronary atherosclerotic plaque in their arteries. A big part of the overall success of the program was due to the nutritional program. The diet proved enormously effective, resulting in weight loss, relief from gastrointestinal complaints, skin rashes, joint pain, autoimmune diseases, as well as dramatically improving abnormalities leading to heart disease. This was, by the way, the birth of the nutritional approach discussed in my Wheat Belly book series, the books that revealed to the world just how aspects of health and control over weight can be regained by following a wheat-free, grain-free lifestyle. The success of the Wheat Belly message has not been driven by my charisma or good looks, but by the fact that it works: a multitude of health conditions melt in the face of removing foods that “official” agencies tell us to eat more of, a real-world experience backed by a substantial body of existing science.
In other words, my efforts to create a source for better information on heart health yielded solutions to an unexpectedly broad panel of health conditions, with participants accomplishing it on their own, unimpeded by their doctors, in the comfort of their kitchens and living rooms. From that unexpected and fortuitious start, Undoctored insights and health tools emerged.
Over and over again, the Undoctored principles, when put into practice, yield extraordinary and often unexpected health benefits. I truly mean it when I say that the level of health obtained through the Undoctored strategies is superior to the level of health the doctor achieves for you with medication and procedures.